Essay, Research Paper
Parenting effectiveness and influence have been studied by developmental
psychologists who have been interested in the role of parenting and how it may affect the
success or failure of children. An important aspect to this area of research is parenting
styles. There have been four styles noted and each may have differing outcomes for the
children in later life: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and unengaged/uninvolved.
Positive discipline and corporal punishment are ways parents may choose to respond to a
child’s misbehavior. Usually corporal punishment is identified with the authoritative
style and positive discipline with the authoritarian style. Research has suggested that
parenting strategies might be culturally specific in their relation to child behavior
problems. Socioeconomic status has also been found to affect child-rearing practices and
poverty can cause strained parental-child relations which causes parents to be less
nurturing. When negative behaviors have been identified behavioral family
interventions, which apply social learning principles, have been suggested as a means of
helping children with conduct problems.
Four Styles of Child Rearing
Permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are
nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable
self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (Baumrind,1991, p.62). They allow their
children to make too many decisions for themselves. Some of these parents believe that
they have little control of their children’s behaviors.
Authoritarian parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be
obeyed without explanation” and will use punishment to get what they expect (Baumrind,
1991, 62). They expect a high level of conformity of their children. Often they are
unresponsive to their children’s needs. Often, if the child does not do exactly as the
parent requires the parent will use force to get the child to do what is expected.
Baumrind’s (1991) study describes authoritative parents as both demanding
and responsive. The parents set reasonable limits for the children and expect them to
follow through, but will also listen to the child’s concerns. They express warm feelings
toward the child and are patient. Both parent and child gets to have a say in matters.
Unresponsive/uninvolved parents are low in both responsiveness and
demandingness. They may reject the child. They do not show any effort beyond what
is needed to take care of the child’s basic needs. If this parenting style is extreme it is
considered child neglect.
Children of authoritative parents usually have the most desirable
profiles. They are generally friendly with peers, independent, have a high
degree of self-control, and work well with adults. They have more self-confidence when
attempting new tasks. They also tend to have more self-control.
Children of authoritarian parents tend to act out aggressively and display disruptive
behaviors. Bierman, Lengua, McMahon, and Stormshak (2000) found that parenting
styles that included yelling/ nagging were associated with all types of disruptive behavior
problems and children of parents who showed little affection were prone to oppositional
Children of permissive parents tend to be immature. The children tend to be
dependent and demanding of adults. They may become involved with drugs as
adolescents. They usually have poor self-control and lack good judgment. The parents
have not expected anything of the children so they do not aspire to much later on.
Punishment is defined as the application of a negative stimulus to reduce or eliminate
a behavior. There are two types typically used with children: punishment involving verbal
reprimands and disapproval and punishment involving physical pain, as in corporal
punishment. Corporal punishment involves the application of some form of physical
pain in response to undesirable behavior. Harris, Holden, and Miller (1999) found that
many parents use spanking and feel it is justified because, in the parents opinion, it
corrects the child’s misbehavior quickly. Straus and Gelles’s study (cited in Donnelly,
Lewis, Mahoney, and Maynard, 2000) reported “Almost all mothers (92%) and fathers
(86%) in the United States report using some type of physical discipline with 3-to
6-year-old children. Both research groups agree that there are clear implications for
intervention or prevention of harsh punishment, especially since punishment often only
produces short-term effects. If punishment is to be effective it must be consistent so it
won’t cause high rates of disobedience. There should be some discussion of the
reasoning for punishment.
Positive discipline is a means of encouraging positive behavior. It allows the child to
know what behaviors would be favored. Reinforcing emerging desirable behaviors with
frequent praise and ignoring trivial misdeeds; and modeling orderly, predictable behavior,
respectful communication, and collaborative conflict resolution strategies all help to
encourage positive behaviors. Positive discipline is favored over punishment because it
should reduce the need for punishment once the positive behavior is exhibited more
Socioeconomic status may affect the style of parenting chosen by parents.
Bronfenbrenner’s (1989) Ecological Systems Theory shows that differences in
macrosystems (the general cultural milieu) affect microsystems (such as family, peers,
school, and the community) as they influence the child’s development. Bronfenbrenner
explicitly predicts that macrosystem differences such as socioeconomic status and racial
or ethnic group membership result in very different developmental outcomes. In general,
parents with higher SES tend to focus more on talking with their kids more than lower
SES parents. The lower SES parents usually use physical punishment more. A possible
explanation of these issues might be due to differences in education levels. The
higher SES parents usually have a greater degree of education. the lower SES families
spend more time trying to earn enough money to support their families leaving them less
time to deal with stresses at home. In cases of poverty, parenting becomes more
difficult. The stresses of life tend to break down the family system. Impoverished
parents tend to spend less time concerned with their children. Societally based
experiences may lead some parents to rely on accessible and coherent goals in their
discipline, whereas others are more reactive.
Ethnicity may have an effect upon parenting styles chosen which may be due to
cultural values. According to Baumrind (1993) the effects of physical discipline on
child behavior problems at school have been found to be stronger for European
American than for African American children. This may be due to the fact that most
African -American mothers expect immediate obedience. The methods they choose may
help the children in the long run due to difficult living conditions faced by the children.
Behavioral Family Intervention
Since many of the children with conduct problems have parents with personal
problems it is important for help to be available to both the parent and child. If there is a
connection between parenting practices and the possibility of behavior problems then the
best way to help is through use of parenting programs as intervention. Through these
programs parents are taught to increase positive interactions with their children. They are
taught to reduce their own negative reactions to the children as well. An example of a
family intervention program is the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program by Sanders
(2000). There has been great success of behavioral family interventions which helps to
show that parents are important when it comes to dealing with children’s behavioral
problems. In a recent study of discipline responses and influences of
SES and ethnicity (Bates, Dodge, Penderhughes, Pettit, and Zellia, 2000) found that
culture and context exert their influences on discipline responses. “Promotion of
self-monitoring of cognitions and affect, as well as problem solving about alternative
discipline strategies, may help make discipline decisions less reactive and harsh.”
according at Bates et al (2000). A study concerning the prevention of conduct
problems of preschoolers (Webster-Stratton, 1998) found that educating parents helps
the children and that there is great promise in this these types of methods. There is
considerable evidence to support the use of parent training techniques based on social
and behavioral learning theory for children with conduct disorder. These interventions
have been successfully implemented in the clinic and in the home using individual or
Behavioral family intervention seems to be a successful way to help parents and
children, but it is more likely to help if the child is young. There may be problems with
getting help for the children and parents at most risk. If the parents are unable or
unwilling to seek help for their children, by the time help is appropriated through
agencies it may be too late. A possible solution may lie in mandatory prevention
programs for at-risk populations. Future research should be done to link specific types
of conduct disorder with specific parenting styles. If there were more research done
with regard to this aspect then we may have a better idea of which groups to focus more
preventative attention on.
Bates, J., Dodge, K. Pinderhughes, E., Pettit, G. , Zelli, A. (2000). Discipline
responses influences of parents socioeconomic status, ethnicity, beliefs about parenting,
stress, and cognitive-emotional process. Journal of Family psychology, 14, (3), 380-400.
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Bierman,K., Lengua, L., McMahon, R., Stormshak, E. (2000). Parenting practices and
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Psychology, 29 (3), 17-29.
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Donnelly, W., Lewis, T., Mahoney, A., Maynard, L. (2000). Mother and father
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